It's official: Bear shot in SLO was one marauding chicken coops

The black bear that was trapped and killed Wednesday was the same bear had been pillaging chicken coops in a San Luis Obispo neighborhood near San Luis Obispo High School over the last week.

Chicken parts and feathers were found in the 3-year-old bear’s digestive tract during a necropsy, said Andrew Hughan, of the state Fish and Game Department. The bear, weighing about 250 pounds, was otherwise found to be healthy.

The decision to kill the bear was made after repeated attempts to persuade it to leave the area, such as hazings with pepper balls, failed.

Hughan, who said he has been deeply criticized by the public for the department’s decision to kill the bear, said there was no other option.

“We never want to destroy a bear but public safety has to be the first priority,” said Hughan. “At the end of the day is not about chickens it is about the people that could be harmed.”

Studies have shown that the bear’s behavior would have likely escalated, he said.

“Eventually it would have worked its way through the chicken coops and then one night it would smell someone’s steak dinner by a window in the house and walk up and punch right through the glass to get it,” said Hughan. “The bear was really doing just what bears do – looking for food.”

Occasionally, game officials will tranquilize and relocate a bear that has wandered into a neighborhood. But this technique is not effective with animals that have a well-developed pattern of marauding.

In 2009, a troublesome bear from Santa Margarita was relocated to a Fish and Game reserve near the Carrizo Plain, a distance of about 30 miles. Ten days later, the bear was back in Santa Margarita.

“We’ve hauled bears up to 200 miles away and it just doesn’t work,” said Hughan. “At best it would get 50 or 60 miles away and then go find another house – they are very clever.”

Hughan said limited resources are also an issue – noting that the cost to relocate a bear a far distance from its home often outweighs the benefits.

“It would cost several thousand tax dollars to relocate a bear far way for an end result we know will not work,” he said.